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HSUS forms Ohio 'ag council'

Animal rights group says effort will promote small farms and humane practices; Ohio ag groups say council excludes most farmers in the state.

Wayne Pacelle is not yet through with Ohio. Just three years after the charismatic animal rights activist brokered a major agreement on a slate of livestock- and animal welfare-related issues with the state’s agriculture organizations, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) announced it had launched an “Ohio Agriculture Council.”

Known as The Ohio Agriculture Council of the HSUS, the council was formed ostensibly to connect livestock producers “who manage their animals using higher animal welfare practices with consumers who seek higher welfare products.” HSUS says it will also work to help farmers transition to more humane animal management practices. 

HSUS first set its sights on the Buckeye State in 2008, following its success in passing a California ballot measure – Proposition 2 – prohibiting or severely restricting several common livestock housing systems including certain types of chicken enclosures and swine gestation stalls. Knowing that the powerful organization intended to push a similar agenda in Ohio, the state’s agriculture interests successfully ran their own ballot measure in 2009, creating the Constitutionally-empowered Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.

Facing another direct threat of an HSUS ballot campaign in 2010, the state’s agriculture and commodity organizations agreed to a series of compromises and reforms, including the phasing out of gestation stalls and other animal housing and husbandry practices targeted by the animal rights group (Feedstuffs, July 5 and Aug. 16, 2010). 

Those groups are wary of the well-heeled organization’s latest effort in Ohio. The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF), the state’s largest farm group, criticized the HSUS council for attempting to drive a wedge between farmers and consumers, rather than trying to build a partnership between them.

“We believe the best way to make connections is to be inclusive,” OFBF said in a statement. “It appears HSUS’ plan intentionally excludes the majority of farmers and consumers who have differing view on food and farming. Both producers and consumers should have multiple choices in how food is grown and raised.” 

Farm Bureau said its largest concern was that HSUS continues to ignore Ohio’s leadership in farm animal care, citing the work of the Livestock Care Standards Board in defining the rules that govern acceptable standards of care for food animals raised in the state: “HSUS is positioning its judgment as being superior to that of Ohio citizens.”

With four years of involvement in Ohio’s political and livestock scene under its belt, it appears HSUS has made itself right at home.

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